Writing Techniques: Out of Order

It’s almost safe to say that no writer writes exactly the same way – it’s a unique process for most. Some folks must have absolute silence, some prefer total isolation, others can be productive in a busy coffee shop whilst other patrons are slurping lattes and chatting with friends. It’s all up to the writer.

And how a person writes vastly differs as well.

When I was writing I’m With You, I wrote the first draft entirely in order until around chapters 13-15 range (can’t remember the specific chapter), then I got stuck. I tried to slog through it, but couldn’t figure out exactly how to puzzle out that segment, so I just moved on to what became chapters 17-19. I had a better idea of where I wanted that portion of the store to go and what I hoped to achieve with it, since it’s a fairly contained section of the narrative. Thus, it was easier for me to draft.

I used to think I had to write in a strictly linear pattern – point A to point B to point C and so on – so when I hit a roadblock, I’d just… stop. Several bouts of frustration and stress later, I’d manage to get momentum going again, but it didn’t occur to me until around my college years that I could write out of order. I could go from point A to point J if I wanted. It doesn’t matter, so long as you can seamlessly link the parts together after they’re all done.

That realization – though simple for some, it was a groundbreaking revelation for me – actually first came to me while writing essays for college. English majors have to write a lot of essays. A crap ton, one might say. And the bane of many college writers is the intro paragraph, which contains the dreaded thesis statement. I used to sit and stare at my computer for ages, trying to think of a compelling intro with a powerful hook, as the cursor blinked mockingly at me from an empty document. To be fair, I’ve encountered many other students and writers who also thought that you had to do the intro first. How else would you know what to write, if you haven’t yet set it up?

I learned, by my senior year, that, as long as I had at least some idea of what I was going to write about, I could just skip the intro, write out the rest of my essay, and then hope motivation and momentum carry me enough to pump out an intro by the time the rest of it is done. Or, if sudden inspiration happened to strike, I could go back and write it out at any point. There are no rules dictating the order in which you write an essay, or a narrative, or any piece of creative work.

By my last couple of semesters, my drafts starting looking like this:

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For the record, I do still believe that intro paragraphs can die in a hole. As you can see, the start of this draft is ugly, my thesis ends with “something something something,” and I haven’t even got a title.

But here is the final version, which came together as I was writing the rest of the essay:

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A bit wordy, but it gets the job done. Your thesis and intro can take shape during the development of the body paragraphs. A lot of the time, I would have no idea how to word my thesis, but I knew what I was trying to prove… and working through the meat of the essay helped me find the right words.

For my current MS, I got stuck on a particular chapter for months – but I didn’t dwell on it very long. I didn’t forget about it entirely, of course, but when I felt hopelessly stuck and had no idea what to write next, I just moved on and kept chugging away at the other sections of the story, the ones I did have a clear path for. Ultimately, I worked past the roadblock and got the chapter done. So, if your writing patterns and habits seem a little unorthodox, don’t let others tell you that your style is out of order. Sometimes, being out of order is exactly what a writer needs.

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If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Paperback is also $9.99 on BN.com.

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Snirt

Whether you like snow or hate it, it’s difficult to dispute that it is beautiful to watch. There is something particularly calming about looking out the window and seeing smooth, unblemished white conquering all traces of green, and flecks of cold crystal falling from the sky, covering everything in a sparkling sheen.

And it remains beautiful for about… two days. Maybe longer, depending on how much snow falls in the first place, and sometimes it’s gone overnight. But when there’s a decent chunk of snow, it can take a while to disappear.

When dreaming of snow and winter wonderlands, no one ever thinks about the later phases of it. After snow, we have snirt.

Snirt – as you can probably put together – is what happens when snow meets dirt. And it is unpleasant. It’s a gross, ugly eyesore, like heaps of cold, brown and black-stained, gravel-speckled sludge collecting on the sides of roads and places where the sun can’t quite reach, persisting long after the snow has vanished from lawns and gardens and driveways. It clings to curbs and parking lots like a disease, determined to destroy.

Snirt is that horrible in-between phase, the last pesky remnant of winter that seems to take forever to go away… and it does, eventually. The foul mountains of old snow will melt, and it will be safe to wash your car without fear of sneaky snirt attacks. Warmth will return. Spring will come. And then green grass shines through, once more.

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If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Paperback is also $9.99 on BN.com.

GIVEAWAY Time!

Looking for a new read? Like books that involve car chases, fire juggling, infiltrating a masquerade, a dash of the paranormal, and an exploration on the bonds of love and family? I’m hosting an Amazon Giveaway for kindle copies of my YA novel, I’m With You!

20 copies are up for grabs, and the giveaway ends February 9th, 2018. No cost or special requirement to enter!

If you’d like to enter for a chance to win, here is the LINK! (Amazon)

book cover

I’m With You is the story of fifteen year old Ciarán Morrigan and his little sister Remiel, who must flee their home and wealthy lifestyle in Kelvar City to escape their mentally unstable father. Along the way, they meet a band of misfits, including a fire juggler and a disowned heir to a car-manufacturing empire, who help Ciarán and Remiel evade the hired hands sent to track them down. But the path ahead is full of danger, and when Remiel’s darkest secret is revealed, will their new friends abandon them, or will the Morrigan siblings find the freedom and peace that they dream of?

What’s in a Name?

Nicknames are a curious thing. Monikers earned due to a specific event, a casual simplification of a name, or a specific trait. Though I’m mostly referred to by my actual given name, I’ve had a few nicknames over the years, and while some have lingered, others have faded away – for the better, in some cases.

Briefly, in my later years of elementary school, I was called “Alf.” It’s a shortening of my first name and the first initial of my last name. It’s also the name of a furry extraterrestrial sitcom character from the 80’s, to whom I like to think I bear no resemblance. This one didn’t last very long, though – only a year or so, if that.

After an accident during a track meet when I was fifteen, I was plagued by a recurring injury that resulted in the disastrous end to my athletic career, a few stints with crutches, and reconstructive knee surgery. Due to my less than stellar walking ability for those months, a handful of friends dubbed me “Gimpy.” Other variations of this name were used, but “Gimpy” was the most frequent, and that stuck from sophomore year of high school through senior year, long after my limping stopped. Fortunately, I have since shed it, and no one has referred to me this way . Looking back, though the nickname was imposed upon me with a measure of friendly affection, it’s actually pretty offensive, so I’m glad I don’t look over my shoulder at a shout of “Gimpy!” anymore.

In college, a friend gave me the nickname “Allenson.” The impetus of this one is foggy, but I think it had something to do with Vikings? I’m not entirely sure of the circumstances, but I do remember it was hilarious.

I actually used to detest being called “Allie.” I used to think it was too “girly” sounding for me since I was a huge tomboy growing up, so whenever folks called me “Allie” in an effort to be nice or spark a rapport, they were met with my wrath. It’s a variant of my actual name, but none of my family ever called me Allie in my early years. However, when I got to kindergarten there was another little girl with the same first name, and she ended up with the shortened moniker while I got to keep the long version, a distinction which lasted through the entirety of high school. Now, I do not mind being called “Allie” as an adult – I wouldn’t have chosen it as my pseudonym, otherwise. Most people in my life don’t call me Allie anyway, except for the few folks who only know me for my writing – it’s actually made it somewhat easier to separate my personal/business life. As a writer, I also give a lot of my characters nicknames – either due to their actions, or traits, or because I can’t be bothered to type their full name out all the time.

People closest to me (family, close friends) commonly refer to me as “Al.” It’s the kind of nickname that sounds wrong when it comes from the lips of an acquaintance, or from someone I’m not very familiar with. If I go out and meet someone who proceeds to call me “Al” without prompting, or without knowing much about it, it grates on me – in a “You have not earned the right to refer to me as such” type of way. I’m not sure why that is, or why I’m so particular about it – perhaps because “Al” is the most personal nickname I’ve ever had. It’s an “If you don’t know me, don’t call me that” nickname.

Nicknames can be adored, abhorred, earned, given, or inherent – and some carry a unique origin story with them. What’s your unique nickname story?

 

Writing Techniques: Stuck

What is one of the ultimate nemeses of a writer, and the occasional downfall of their productivity? That’s right; Writer’s Block.

There are writers out there who don’t “believe” in Writer’s Block, and while I understand that perspective, I don’t agree with it. Because I’ve fought that horrible, soul-gouging feeling of being “stuck” many times before, especially in recent months. I’ve actually been feeling “stuck” for a long time and it’s taking me longer than usual to work through it, due to a combination of different factors.

Sometimes, the words just… won’t. And what can you do to battle it?

The factors contributing to being “stuck” can be external, internal, or a wonderful combination of both, and over time, they take a toll. There are some days where I cannot even manage to form a coherent thought, never mind write one down.

It’s hard. And when a day – or days, even – pass by, and my fingers barely grace the keyboard, it’s enough to make a writer, aspiring or otherwise, feel worthless. Like a failure. Those are difficult emotions to work through, and they aren’t so easily resolved, so if you’re feeling stuck, there’s no need to feel down on yourself and make things even worse.

There are ways to combat it, though I’ve often had to attempt two or three different methods before something sticks.

1.) Free writing. If you’re stuck on a specific project, it helps sometimes to dabble with some unrelated writing prompts, to try and get the gears grinding again. Or to take a breather from a major work and just write whatever comes to mind for a few minutes, to try and prevent burn-out.

2.) Take some space. Go for a walk, get some fresh air, or take a time out to do some other activity. It’s okay to step away for a while, if pressure or lack of inspiration are bogging you down. Battling through it isn’t always an option, as forcing yourself to write when you are feeling stuck can be a detriment rather than a boon.

3.) Switch projects. If your bout of Writer’s Block is specific to one particular manuscript or screenplay or whatever, then switch over to something else until the creativity starts flowing again.

4.) Indulge in the things you enjoy. To try and break free of the doldrums, I typically engage in the things that help to ignite my passion for creativity – for me, that’s reading and watching movies. After seeing a great movie, I usually have a hankering to get home and sit down at my laptop for some writing. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s a worthwhile strategy.

There are 10,000 word count days, 5,000 word count days, 1,000 word count days…. and sometimes, 0 word count days. People get “stuck” – and not only with writing. It’s natural. So if you’re struggling with Writer’s Block, don’t let feelings of shame or worthlessness drag you down. You can fight it or ride it out, so long as those feelings don’t become permanent, or else, other intervention might be needed. Passion for writing waxes and wanes, but Writer’s Block, while frustrating and agonizing at times, is not meant to last forever, even though it sometimes feels that way.

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If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Paperback is also $9.99 on BN.com.

There’s something about…

…Popcorn.

Apparently, January 19th is National Popcorn Day. Everything gets a holiday, it seems.

Admittedly, I’m not the biggest popcorn fan in the world (and kettle corn is an abomination), but I’ll give credit where credit is due… popcorn is the ultimate movie theater snack. Besides M&Ms. I’m also really tempted, every time I go to the movies in the morning/early afternoon, to get the cinnamon roll bites they have for sale, but I have yet to do it.

Popcorn is a magical thing, and it works in mysterious ways. Right now, sitting here at my laptop and typing out this blog post, I have no desire for popcorn. Like, none whatsoever. But put me in a movie theater seat, dim the lights, and start showing previews on the screen, and I guarantee I’ll have a hankering for some salty, buttery goodness.

To satisfy such urges, I usually buy the refillable popcorn bucket my local theater offers every year, and it gets plenty of use. This past year, it had Matt Damon’s face on the cover, advertising The Great Wall. I look forward to replacing it with the 2018 bucket, whenever they come in.

Occasionally, I’ll feel like having popcorn at home, but for the most part I consider it to be a movie theater exclusive snack.  I don’t know why popcorn works in such a way, but it does – and I can eat a ton of it without my stomach hurting. My dad and nearly demolished an entire bucketful of popcorn before the previews were over when we went to see The Last Jedi for a second time, and my mom and I regularly finish off a bucket between the two of us. We are seasoned popcorn pros, but only in the perfect environment.

Happy National Popcorn day! Be sure to celebrate with some popcorn while you’re sitting down to watch Netflix tonight – or, if you’re like me, just hold off until your next trip to the movies.

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If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Paperback is also $9.99 on BN.com.

Pancakes

For a very long time – like, half of my life – I hated pancakes.

I refused to eat them, even at the annual pancake dinner fundraiser held at my church. The very thought of them – and their fluffy, syrupy goodness – made me feel nauseous. Same goes for waffles and any other similar breakfast foods. I straight-up hated them and wouldn’t touch them with a four-pronged fork. Because those are the only legitimate forks, by the way. Don’t come at me with that three-pronged fork nonsense. Four-prong all the way.

Truth be told, I’m not sure where my pancake hatred began, or what the impetus was. I just know that up until a few years ago, the word “pancake” equated to “EW,” in my brain, so I always skipped over them on diner menus and whenever they were offered up as a breakfast option at a sleepover or something.

Then, one fateful day when I was in my late teens, I somehow ended up at an IHOP. And, of course, you can’t not order pancakes at IHOP. It’s the International House of Pancakes, for crying out loud. I mean, it’s not like it’s the NHOP, or National House of Pancakes. It is a force not restricted by national borders – you cannot forsake the cake at an IHOP, end of story.

So I ordered the most generic pancakes available on the menu and figured I could just slather them with syrup, suck it up, and suffer through it. But when they arrived at the table, an odd thing happened. My nose twitched, enticed by the sweet scent of maple. And my mouth began to water, instead of my mind blaring, “EW” over and over again like a siren. My stomach growled, too.

So, I took a hesitant bite. Then another, and another. And wouldn’t you know it?

As it turns out, I kind of like pancakes.

Now, I order them for breakfast all the time! I prefer the oat-bran variety, though, because I am secretly an old woman concerned about my digestive system. But I never would have known this if I hadn’t given pancakes a second chance. Inspired by my quick turnaround in opinion when it comes to pancakes, I have also tried to see if my opinion has changed on other foods, but alas, I still hate watermelon (all melons, actually), pears, squash, pretzels, and animal crackers, among others. But I have made an effort to give the things I once dismissed a fair chance to prove me wrong.

So, what’s the moral of this pancake-based tale, you might ask? Is it to always give those you have spurned a second chance?

In a way, yes. Pancakes deserved a shot at redemption in my eyes, to prove their worth to me. I granted them that chance, and they effectively reshaped my opinion, to the point where they are now one of my favorite breakfast foods.

However, people don’t always deserve a second chance. That would be ridiculous. It’s a case-by-case basis when it comes to human beings – sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Some people deserve a chance to right a wrong or mend a bridge or whatever. You’re not obligated to give people a second chance if you don’t want to, though. Because people aren’t pancakes.

Always, always give pancakes a second chance.

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If you’re in need of a new read, or need something to spend your holiday money on, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Paperback is also $9.99 on BN.com.